Sloan’s debut album starts with the assertion that “underwhelmed” is not a word. Maybe it wasn’t in 1992, when this was released in their home country of Canada, but it is now. So, you know, that’s a little grating. But it doesn’t even compare to the ridiculously too-cute-but-not delivery of the line and the near five minutes of grammar peeving, solipsism, and annoying deliveries that follow as the song continues.
So the band starts off the album with their two worst songs, but “Underwhelmed” does have some good guitar riffs and the rest of the album improves pretty dramatically after this awful start. In fact, the best song on the album, “I Am The Cancer” is third (squee).
This album is fighting itself, which isn’t surprising for a rookie effort. It’s got great production, great guitar sound, and often some really hooky power-pop riffs propelled by great, shuffly rhythms. But, “I Am The Cancer” aside, the compositional chops to turn those riffs into well-contained songs aren’t there yet, and the lyrics are way too sad sack mopey boy who can’t get laid (see my comments on “Take It In” below). And when I think you’ve gone too far in that direction, you’ve really got a problem. But then the stretch from “Sugartune” through “Two Seater” is pretty incredible in that each song brings either some awesome riff, some tension-releasing fast, tight rock, and/or some brilliant lyrics.
Again, the fact that this is a bit not-quite-all over the map seems appropriate for a debut . Turn it up loud and get lost in the guitar sound, and you can bump this up a half-clown to 3.5.
Mix: “I Am The Cancer”
– “Median Strip,” “500 Up,” “Sugartune,” “Lemonzinger,” “Two Seater,” “What’s There To Decide?”
– “Raspberry,” “Take It In,” “Marcus Said,” “Left Of Centre”
Song Notes: After the jump
- Underwhelmed – There’s some great riffs in here, but the lyrics about him being a grammar peever are super annoying, as is their too-cute delivery. An otherwise full heart dropping to broken because of misguided attempts at cleverness.
- Raspberry – mostly boring.
- I Am The Cancer – best track.
- Median Strip – “be Glenn Close to me”? Awesome start, and then that bass rhythm is awesome. Doesn’t live up to ts promise, though. This is borderline, but based on that bass line (pun intended) and some of the cool sounds, Ima make it full.
- Take It In – I hate these sissy lyrics. It’s like he’s trying to make her feel bad about him by saying that him likes her but hasn’t told her that. Like WTF? He’s bad cuz he wants the same girl you want? I must be misunderstanding this because even the indiest Canadian sissy wasn’t this sissy, at least not in 1992 when indie sissies bore at least some resemblance to men.
- 500 Up –
- Marcus Said – Pretty good, but doesn’t quite rise up to level of open heart. Fantastic sound, I just want an awesome melody to cut through a little bit more.
- Sugartune – Really nails that sweet little delay shuffle power pop rhythm thing. Verses and chorus are sweet but the B part is boring, and they don’t get to the chorus until after going ABA and then C(horus). Still, pretty awesome. And great lyrics about how, to paraphrase, “I wrote this sugartune for you/when you’re down/remember how I made this sound.”
- Left Of Centre – Lou Reed. And awesome lyrics here, too, spesh the middle child blues verse. Right up there with Lou Reed-quality.
- Lemonzinger – sweet little bass melodies keeping things moving along while the guits and vox ring out.
- Two Seater – Faster than the rest. Would benefit from a sweeter hook, but it’s a nice raw rocker.
- What’s There To Decide? – I don’t know if this is strictly enjoyable enough to be a full heart, but it’s so good at what it is, that I can’t really justify anything less.